Where’s the rush? You are in Hefei

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Whenever I talk about my hometown with my foreign friends, I like to make fun of its name – Hefei – which means “two fat men together”.

The name actually comes from the convergence of two rivers, Nanfei and Dongfei.

This capital city of Anhui province is hardly a tourist destination, being more of a transit point for visiting the more famous Huangshan and Jiuhua mountains, and the ancient village of Xidi.

While it may seem boring to first-time visitors, everything about Hefei has always been the warmest part of my memories, especially while studying or working in big cities such as Beijing and Sydney.

Hefei boasts no big and glamorous shopping centers or celebrated historical places; its charm, instead, lies in its laidback pace of life. Not a trace of the hustle and bustle of city life can be found here.

My uncle has been working in Beijing for 15 years, but whenever he returns to Hefei, he is always up early to tuck into a breakfast of guotie, or fried dumplings, in a local restaurant.

Though guotie can be found in most cities, my uncle claims those in Hefei are unique. “In Beijing, it’s more like fast food you eat on your way to work. But here you can take your time, sit by the roadside and savor its taste slowly,” he says.

I feel the same.

With a history dating to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), Hefei has given birth to many influential figures. Among them Bao Zheng, a high-ranking official of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), revered for his justice and integrity.

Today, the Temple of Lord Bao, first built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and renovated during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is a must-see for visitors to the city. Its newest attraction is an exhibition hall full of wax figures in beautiful period costumes, based on the folk tales of Bao. His spirit has nurtured several generations of his hometown.

Baohe Park, built around the temple, is a favorite weekend hangout.

Another interesting thing about Hefei is that its distinctive dialect is not widely used by the locals, especially the younger generation. When I was in college, I was mocked by my classmates because I could not speak my native dialect. That’s because I started with Mandarin in primary school, and very few of my family members speak the local dialect.

So if find yourself in my hometown, Hefei, take a deep breath, enjoy the local snacks, smell the flowers and bask in the warm hospitality of Hefei’s residents.

And hopefully the next time any mention of the city of “two fat people together” is made, it will bring a warm smile to your face.

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